(By Chris Okotie)
“Nobody says President Jonathan does not have the constitutional right to seek re-election. However, legal right, when it loses strength against moral ethos, becomes burdensome to the beneficiary of that right. When a Commander- in- Chief is presiding over an army that is so war-weary that its soldiers are deserting the war front in droves because of superior fire-power of a rag-tag, buccaneering force like Boko Haram, he loses the respect of not just his own armed forces, but that of the people he leads“.
There’s a brief historical parallel between the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson (1963 – 69), who succeeded President John F. Kennedy when the latter was assassinated, and President Goodluck Jonathan, who took office after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Both Johnson and Jonathan were Vice Presidents who succeeded their late bosses when they died in office, and went on to get elected in their own rights. Both presided over their nations in times of great political turbulence; in Johnson’s case, during the Vietnam War, in Jonathan’s, the Boko Haram insurgency and sundry woes. That’s where their similarities end.
President Johnson shocked the world in the heat of the nomination process leading to the 1968 presidential election when he suddenly withdrew from the race because of the turmoil generated by his poor handling of the Vietnam War and widespread race riots at home. He was, nevertheless, applauded because of the nobility of his action which effectively sealed his place in the pantheon of American statesmen. He chose his country’s peace over self-aggrandisement and the allure of office.
President Jonathan faces a similar situation; he is presiding over a deeply divided country, torn apart by religious bigotry, unprecedented official corruption and a badly managed insurgency. While this poor record ought naturally to deflate his presidential ambition like Johnson’s, Jonathan unabashedly schemed his nomination, unopposed, for the 2015 presidential election. He and his Peoples Democratic Party cohorts fail to realise that, if you cannot solve a problem, you invariably become part of it. That was why President Johnson didn’t seek re-election. The US leader knew the bounds between honour and dishonour, and he chose the honourable path.
Nobody says President Jonathan does not have the constitutional right to seek re-election. However, legal right, when it loses strength against moral ethos, becomes burdensome to the beneficiary of that right. When a Commander- in- Chief is presiding over an army that is so war-weary that its soldiers are deserting the war front in droves because of superior fire-power of a rag-tag, buccaneering force like Boko Haram, he loses the respect of not just his own armed forces, but that of the people he leads.
As if the shame of the agonising plight of the Chibok schoolgirls is not enough, our Defence authorities seem to be more anxious for a ceasefire with their Boko Haram captors, than the insurgents themselves, signalling war – weariness on the part of our army. Boko Haram has graduated from a hit-and-run terrorist group, into an army which now occupies territories they have conquered in the northeastern part of the country.
The PDP administration of President Jonathan is more concerned with plotting how he’d coast home to victory in the 2015 presidential election, than how to defeat the insurgents and other violent crimes which threaten the nation’s stability. This places his current quest for renewed mandate on a moral quicksand.
The ding dong of proclamation of ceasefire by our government and frequent denials by Boko Haram is too embarrassing to be allowed to continue. For God’s sake, President Jonathan should save this nation the disgrace of seeing poorly armed Nigerian troops fleeing into Cameroon in the face of Boko Haram onslaught. He must exercise leadership and bring this insurgency to an end.
In other civilised climes, when a war is handled in this shoddy manner, the leadership of the armed forces would be dishonourably discharged, while the President and his government forced to resign for bringing shame on the nation. Instead, the Nigerian military is making a scapegoat of poor soldiers who violently protested bad service conditions, by sentencing them to death for mutiny. Though, never should disloyalty ever be excused for whatever reason, the peculiar case of the mutinous soldiers who were recently condemned to death should be treated with leniency, and their sentences commuted to reasonable prison terms because their operational conditions were less than ideal as evidenced by the continued desertions being recorded in this terror war. So much for insurgency.
Now, let us look at the economic record of a President who is seeking reelection. An editorial in The PUNCH edition of October 6, 2014, exposes Nigeria’s poor governance index:” In the Corruption Perception Index 2013 published by Transparency International, Nigeria plunged further from 137th out of 177 countries surveyed in 2012 to 144th. Our score dropped to 25 per cent from 28 per cent. Nor is our moving out of the world’s most fragile states in the 2014 Fragile States Index to 17th cause for cheer in an economy with Africa’s largest Gross Domestic Product. We escaped the ignominy of remaining in the group of the 15 most fragile only because of the civil wars in Syria and Iraq and the descent of Guinea Bissau into an unstable narco state.
“In its Ease of Doing Business Report 2014, the World Bank rated Nigeria 147th out of 189 countries, a further deterioration from its ranking of 137th in 2013. Despite all this; glaring poverty, unemployment and terribly inadequate infrastructure, Jonathan and his ministers have created a narrative of success, even as their failure and the tell-tale signs of a failing state daily confront Nigerians”.
Despite all these unflattering statistics, one is amazed at the crude, undemocratic manner President Jonathan went about seeking a renewal of his mandate in the forthcoming election. Long before the Independent National Electoral Commission lifted the ban on political campaigns, a horde of pro-Jonathan political organisations was unleashed on the nation.
More than any president, Jonathan has used his incumbency to the greatest advantage, deploying strong arm tactics, and the nation’s resources whenever he deemed necessary; whether in dismantling the Nigeria Governors’ Forum which threatened his re-election bid, or sacking errant governors through instigated impeachments. The President’s underhand tactics serves one purpose: clear the way for his reelection in 2015! If this is what democracy is all about, we are in a serious trouble.
- Rev. Okotie, a presidential aspirant, wrote in from Lagos
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